Local restaurant works toward the future

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Carlos Patino was an agronomy engineer in Mexico, but since he moved to the United States, he has taken any job that was offered. He has worked on road construction crews in California and driven delivery trucks.

And a year and a half ago, he gladly accepted a job as a restaurant manager in Steamboat Springs, even though he had never so much as bussed a table.

The first day Tequila's Restaurant opened to customers, Patino didn't even know how to run the computer ordering system they had set up for the wait staff.

He laughs about it, now that he has settled into his role.

"I didn't know anything and everyone was asking me what they should do," he said.

The dynamic at Tequila's is one of a family-run business. The entire staff is from Mexico or Central America.

Many of them have wives and children back home.

They live five and six people to an apartment and try to send as much money home as they can.

"We all need this restaurant to survive. The employees here take care of the business for my family and for their families," Patino said.

Often, his employees get homesick for Mexico and their families.

"Imagine that your child is sick in Mexico and you can't do anything," he said. "But I tell them that they are young now, but they need to think about the future."

Patino moved to the United States 16 years ago from the small town of Atengo, Jalisco, Mexico. In many ways, his town is like Steamboat, he said. A river runs through the center. Many of the residents make a living by raising cattle, but there is no tourism. The economy is dependent on the thousands of dollars that former residents send home from the United States.

At first he moved to California, but after his children were born, he wanted to find a good place to raise his family. He visited some family members in Glenwood Springs and decided to move to Colorado. He shopped for a house he could afford and found one in Thornton. Not long after, he was offered the chance to open and manage Tequila's by his brother-in-law, who now has opened seven of the franchises across Colorado.

"When he first moved to the United States, he didn't have anything," Patino said. "Now he has seven restaurants, and he was able to move back to Mexico."

Patino plans to wait until the end of the second year to make sure Tequila's will survive before he buys a house in Steamboat and moves his family here.

"My wife and I have been married for 16 years, and we've never been separated before," he said. "It's very difficult."

Then he remembers his own advice: Think about the future.

"I started working when I was 12," he said. "I would work in the morning and then go to school. I am this way because my father taught me to work.

"I'm very grateful to this country for all it's given me. Whatever work I do, I'm happy here."

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